No sugar coating: we’ve had a sad start to the season due to injuries to two key players and disappointing loses. However, while some view being a Clipper fan as a form of self-masochism (and not in that kinky fun way), really being a Clipper fan is all about hope. About faith. About believing things will get better. We refuse to give up, and somehow we always believe that tomorrow will bring better days. That if we gut it out, our day will come, and ohhh, then it will be all the sweeter (ie. see Red Sox; Winning World Series & Breaking Curse Of The Bambino). Thus, in our darkest hours we must stay strong, and as Brian said while being crucified, “Always look on the bright side of life.” For those Clipper fans who worry it’s gotten too dark to see the light anymore, fear not for I, your humble blogger, will be your sherpa up this mountain of despair.
Most people on Thanksgiving say they’re thankful for friends, family, health, harmony and perhaps personal success that they’ve had, be it at work or elsewhere. Those seem to be similar things for which a Clipper fan should want. I herewith present to you, Clipper Nation, The 11 Clipper Things For Which To Be Thankful:
1. That the Clipper players have grown into more of a family, rather than a disparate group of strangers. Okay, maybe it’s just friends, not family, but the point is that the ties both on the court and off have improved. As proof: Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan trained together in the off-season. In fact, often when one of the Clippers does something spectacular on the court, they look to the bench to amp up the excitement, and that bench is up and jumping. Even during games, the chemistry between Baron Davis and Chris Kaman is evident. Kaman no longer is surprised by Baron’s passes, and Baron knows how and where to get it to Chris for the easy bucket. Likewise, Sebastian Telfair & Criag “Rhino” Smith have brought over and built upon their chemistry from Minnesota. The two of them work well picking & rolling together. Heck, even the duo of Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin looked great in the pre-season, with Blake showing a real gift for passing.
2. That we have our health. Right, right, we’ve lost Kareem Rush, Blake & Eric Gordon to injuries, but except for the Rushman (who c’mon, was a surprise add), the other two are coming along. Gordon’s been back for two games, and while rusty, he’s gotten better. With Blake set to return shortly, we should be back to full health, and if that ain’t something to be thankful for, then I don’t know what is.
3. That we’ve had success. Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen all the games we’ve lost that we shouldn’t have, but truth is we’ve spent most of the season missing our two studs and we’re currently 7-10, which ain’t bad. Last year we only won 19 games total. If we keep at our current pace we’d end up with about 34 wins, nearly doubling the previous season’s results. You can argue that we’ve had an easy stretch and if we only won 7 games during that period, we’ll do even worse going forward. I don’t buy it. Surely the return of Blake & Gordon will at least balance that out. Heck, they should more than balance that out, meaning 38 wins as a base is highly likely.
4. That we can look forward to the bountiful feast that we will receive from the Eastern Conference. While Milwaukee, Atlanta and Miami have come out stronger than expected, the three of them plus the East’s Big Three (Orlando, Cleveland & Boston) are the only teams above .500. By contrast, out West we’ve got 9 teams at or above that threshold. If we were out East, we’d only be a 1/2 game out of the playoffs. You may say, sure, but we ain’t in the East. No, we’re not, but we’ve only played 3 Eastern teams so far. That means we’ve got 27 games against the East left. Sounds like a pretty yummy feast to me.
5. That we’re still in the thick of it for the playoffs. The Western Conference playoffs. In the east we’d only be a half-game out, but in the West we’re only 2 games out. That ain’t bad. Yes, except for Minnesota, all the teams in the West are pretty much within the same distance of a playoff spot, but who cares? If we can stay this close through the New Year, that’d be a darn nice feat, regardless of the eventual outcome.
6. That Donald T. Sterling has said he’s not afraid to fire Dunleavy if Dun still can’t produce once all his players are back healthy. Sterling revealed that during a recent (rare) interview with TJ Simmers in the LA Times. Even more surprising was that Sterling stated that he actually really wants the Clips to one day win a title.
7. That we might actually have a shot at acquiring LeBron during the off-season! This has already been discussed by many others, but what gives it new legitimacy is that in that same article above, Sterling claims he’s only cheap when it comes to paying journeymen, but he’s willing to fork over big bucks for big stars. And he was willing to go all out with Kobe, so no doubt he’d pay for LeBron. However, maybe more importantly if LeBron believes the claim that Sterling would be willing to pay for other great players in the future, LBJ might not be scared of joining the Clips for fear that he can’t count on ownership. I mean unless The King joins up with his buddy Wade in Miami, there’s no team that offers near the talent that the Clips have (and yes, that most definitely includes the Cavs).
8. That the new and improved Kaman was not a fluke. Chris came out on fire, but we wondered if he could sustain it. He hit a couple of games where it’d be being polite if you said he only stunk like a rear end. People became worried that he was reverting back to his old ways, melting right in front of our eyes. He came back last night, and against a tough defender in Ben Wallace, showed that his off-games were but a momentary blip.
9. That Al Thornton is finally “getting it!” He was always capable of making the occasional great acrobatic drive to the hole, but his shot selection made even Ricky Davis shake his head on the bench and go, “Even I wouldn’t shoot that crap.” This year he’s done what Dunleavy has asked, and he’s come through with flying neon colors. After being told he was too heavy at training camp, Al promptly lost 25 pounds and completely re-vamped his eating habits. And training camp wasn’t that long ago. Actually people started saying he lost 25 pounds a few weeks ago, so somehow he lost 25 pounds in literally a month. That don’t sound healthy, and it took him a bit to get used to his new body, but now he’s back to his old high-flying ways. Equally important, if not more, is that he’s cut down on his outside shots and keeps trying to get the ball closer to the basket so he has higher-percentage options.
10. That our starting guards aren’t named Whitney Houston and Brittany Spears like the University of Colorado’s women’s basketball team. Fine, that has nothing to do with the Clippers, but it was so bizarre I wanted to link to it — I mean what’re the chances of something like that happening?
11. That Baron’s shooting lights out on the road. Baron’s sucked donkey shlong in the nine games here at home, but for some reason during the eight games on the road he’s shot over 48%! That’s amazing. Does he shoot less threes? No, he shoots a half a three more per away game, and his three-point percentages jump up from a lame 28% to a fantastomatic 39%. His assists do drop from 7.8 to 6.4, but his points fly from a mere 11 to 21! Yes, some might focus on the home games & complain, wondering why he can’t perform at Staples Center. However it’s always much tougher to win on the road (particularly for weaker teams), and by Baron coming out on fire, he’s managed to keep us in nearly every away game. And that’s what you hope for with away games. That you can hang around long enough so that it comes down to the last few possessions and maybe you can steal it away. Maybe if the home crowd is more supportive and less boo-ative, he might improve here too. And if that happens, well forget 38 wins, we’re going for 48 and making the playoffs. ‘Cuz if yer a Clipper fan, ya gotta have hope. And thanks.